Oklahoma has scheduled the largest single-day mass commutation of sentences in the history of the United States.
On Monday, as part of reforms to the state's criminal justice system, CNN reports 462 individuals will be released after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation pushed through the Republican-controlled legislature.
The release follows two past events. In 2016, Oklahoma voters passed reforms changing drug possession to a misdemeanor and increasing the felony dollar threshold from $500 to $1,000 for felony property crimes. Additionally, in 2019 the HB 1269 bill enabled the Pardon and Parole Board to recommend inmates for commutation if imprisoned for crimes not considered felonies.
Oklahoma — the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country — claims the commutations would help them save money.
“Had these inmates served their full uncommuted sentence, it could have cost the state of Oklahoma approximately $11.9 million for continued incarceration, based upon the average costs,” said the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in a statement quoted by Vox.
Oklahoma has also made strides to provide select inmates with a valid, state-issued driver’s license or state-issued ID card prior to discharge. This decision has been declared a first by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections — which worked through the weekend to process discharge paperwork, transfer inmates’ trust account money to debit cards, and prepare the necessary inmate discharge medications.
“This is a historic day for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma, as we send the largest single-day commutation of sentences in our nation’s history to the governor’s desk,” said Steven Bickley, executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board in a statement. “With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans. However, from day one, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low level, non-violent offenders, but the successful reentry of these individuals back into society."
In total, the board recommended a total of 527 inmates for commutation, but 65 will continue to be held on detainers and no future had been set for their release.